Elon Musk funding AI-related R&D programs to combat the creation of Skynet

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Jul 8, 2015, 7:52 PM EDT (Updated)

In addition to dabbling in everything from space exploration to electric vehicles, billionaire Elon Musk is also pumping a few million bucks into some artificial intelligence programs. But don’t worry — he’s not funding Skynet.

Musk has donated millions to the Future of Life Institute, and now the foundation is gearing up to issue several grants aimed at keeping the development of artificial intelligence “robust and beneficial” to humanity. Basically, we want to make sure they’re our robo-pals, and not our robo-overlords. This is an area of research we could definitely get behind.

The plan is to issue grants of a few million dollars to 37 different research teams, from an initial list of more than 300 applicants. Here’s an excerpt from some of the projects on tap:

Three projects developing techniques for AI systems to learn what humans prefer from observing our behavior, including projects at UC Berkeley and Oxford University:

  • A project by Benja Fallenstein at the Machine Intelligence Research Institute on how to keep the interests of superintelligent systems aligned with human values
  • A project led by Manuela Veloso from Carnegie Mellon University on making AI systems explain their decisions to humans
  • A study by Michael Webb of Stanford University on how to keep the economic impacts of AI beneficial
  • A new Oxford-Cambridge research center for studying AI-relevant policy

Though preventing our untimely demise is obviously a part of what inspired this project, the Future of Life Institute is making it a point to spin the initiative as a way to promote and develop AI to solve real-world problems. Skynet makes for a catchy headline (guilty as charged), but the institute is looking for fresh ideas in how to develop and implement the tech:

"The danger with the Terminator scenario isn’t that it will happen, but that it distracts from the real issues posed by future AI," Future of Life Institute president Max Tegmark said. "We're staying focused, and the 37 teams supported by today’s grants should help solve such real issues.”

Welcome to the future, folks. Be nice to the robots, and (hopefully) they'll be nice to you.

(Via The Verge, Recode)

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